Report warns Liberals against sole-sourced military contracts

Choosing one company to provide equipment should be a "subordinate option" to a competitive process, said a 2015 report

OTTAWA – The Liberal government was warned late last year that a sole-sourced contract for military equipment like fighter jets was bound to drive up costs in the absence of an open competition.

The report delivered to Public Services and Procurement Canada in late December found that choosing one company to provide equipment should be a “subordinate option” to a competitive process so taxpayers receive value for money.

The report, obtained by The Canadian Press under the access law, raises a host of problems with the government’s procurement processes amid reports that the Liberals are prepared to go with a sole-sourced contract to purchase Super Hornet fighter jets from Boeing as an interim solution to the aging fleet of CF-18s.

The government has talked about a looming capability gap when it comes to the CF-18s, which has caught observers and the opposition by surprise, since the previous Conservative government decided to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to keep the jets flying until at least 2025.

The Ottawa Citizen reported this week that cabinet had discussed buying the Super Hornets while officials hunt for a long-term replacement for the CF-18s.

All that was left, the report said, was to come up with a narrative to sell the idea to the public.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office says cabinet hasn’t discussed the issue and no final decision has been made on the future of the CF-18 fleet.

The Liberals promised during the election campaign to not purchase the F-35 and instead hold an open competition to replace the CF-18s. That promise posed a problem for the government: How do you hold an open competition and exclude one candidate?

The Liberals have since appeared to backtrack on the promise and refused to publicly rule out the F-35 if it was deemed the best the option for the military.